The Meaning of Easter

Antony | Student at Redeemer

The great solemnity of Easter marks a New Year in the Church. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, but Easter rejoices at the resurrection of Jesus — the door of salvation which Christ unlocked through His Cross was swung open that blessed morning when Christ was resurrected from the dead for all who believe and trust in Him.

We read in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that St. Paul says if Christ had not been raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain. The beauty is that Christ has been raised from the dead, and we are given assurance of this by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost; our faith testifies to this.

What does this mean for us?

God longs to repair relationships with His children whom sin and disobedience have broken. He offers us the chance to live eternally with Him in His Kingdom forever. When Christ was nailed to the Cross, it is said that all the wrath of God the Father was emptied upon Christ. Even the face of God was turned away from Jesus for a time, but through Jesus’ resurrection we have the chance to have eternal life — if we grab hold of Christ.

Our grip may slip at times, but we have nothing to fear if we give Christ our hearts. We have nothing to fear because it is Christ who is holding on to us. We will still endure the brokenness of this world and will be tempted, but our sinful nature has no hold on what Christ has in store for his believers.

These are the words that our Creator God spoke: I will go; I will humble Myself to be tortured and die on a cross for Our children. Why? Who are we? We are His beloved children and Christ came to die for you and me, all of us, because He loves us.

My dear brothers and sisters, Easter is a time of great joy, but some of us may not feel that joy because of something going on in our lives with family or friends. We may go to chapel, CITB, Hot Spot, or other worship events here at Redeemer to find that outlet, that moment of release, but life goes on and to go with the flow we put on masks. We put on a smile, thinking “It’s Easter, I’m a Christian, I should be happy”, while inside, pain has taken over.

Don’t be afraid. Christ was right there, feeling the same things you are now while He prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me” (Luke 22:42). Fix your eyes on the Cross of Christ and hold on to it in your hearts, because that is your Joy. Give it to Christ, whatever it is. Even if you can’t let go right away, ask Him to help carry it, and slowly you will be able to let go. Jesus Christ promised He will never leave us or forsake us. It doesn’t matter what you did — He is your Father, your Creator, and your God.

Have a blessed Easter.

"Are Relationships Worth It?"

A Seminar Featuring Your Prof's Love Life

Elise Arsenault | Reporter 

On Wednesday, February 10th, Student Life facilitated a conversation between students and professors on the topic of relationships. Dr. Deborah Bowen, Dr. Darren Brouwer, and Dr. Marie Good graciously answered our questions with stories, revelations, and lessons gleaned from personal experiences. The event saw poignant moments, comical remarks, inspiring tales and sobering perplexities, all shared with utmost honesty.

Overarching themes included (a) the roles of vulnerability and commitment, (b) Kingdom-minded relationship, and (c) the gift of singleness. My retelling will focus on these three topics and conclude with the panelists’ final advice to students.

Informing the professors’ responses were three unique narratives of how they’d entered their current most committed relationship. For example, Dr. Bowen met her husband at an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship group at Oxford University while they were both undergrads, and will have been married for 45 years come this summer!

Dr. Brouwer recounted the tragic loss of his first wife to a car accident, leaving him widowed at the age of 32 with their ten-month-old son. He has since remarried, and shares his truth out of the experience of “building a new life that doesn’t exclude what happened in the past, but tries to make sense of the two lives [he’s] lived.”

As of this past Valentine’s Day, Dr. Good has been with her husband for 19 years. He first asked her out at a Jr. High youth group event, with construction paper hearts stuck to the nursery walls for romantic ambiance. They were married five and a half years later.

It is with this trio of perspectives that the evening proceeded. Before delving into discussion, however, all attendees participated in a Twitter poll answering whether they most feared commitment or vulnerability when entering a relationship. The tally revealed that 76% were more inclined to fear vulnerability, and 24% were more afraid to commit. After revealing the results, Dr. Bowen noted that approximately 76% of the audience was female… An interesting factor to consider.

 

Vulnerability and Commitment

When asked about the role of vulnerability, each panelist agreed it is essential to a relationship. Honesty provides the groundwork for trust. What isn’t usually monitored, however, is the degree to which we should be vulnerable with each other. There’s a risk of being too open, since it is rarely helpful to say everything you think, experience and feel.

In addition, vulnerability can become manipulative if used to pressure someone else into being vulnerable in return. Being mindful of these things, then, means using discernment and setting the right boundaries around the parts of yourself you share with others.

Dr. Good admitted that commitment is not always easy, quipping that “some days, I don’t even like my husband! But sticking it out is always worth it.”

While entry into a married relationship means making vows to another person, it is also “committing to the bigger idea of the relationship.” “You’ve made a covenant,” explained Dr. Brouwer. “To take that seriously dispels superficiality, and undergirds the whole process. As hard as it is, there arises a sense of putting the other person’s needs before your own — and that helps to weather any storm.”

Moreover, being vulnerable with and committed to God makes all the difference. He alone can handle the whole of your honesty, and is most worthy of life-long devotion. Dr. Brouwer reminded us, too, that honouring God means “trusting him to look after the other person when you can’t work things out.”

Kingdom-Minded Relationship

When Micah Van Dijk shared the synopses of films “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached,” we were given scenarios where vulnerability and commitment were wayward. Both plot-lines glorified the fleeting, overlooked the worthwhile, and offered a disheartening take on relationship — lust leaving love for indifference.

Dr. Bowen likened interactions like these to scar tissue; a quick and lesser fix. An exclusively physical relationship is so contrary to what we are made for that it quickly becomes damaging to everyone involved.

We then considered another common, and perhaps less obvious, expectation. “Over the years,” Dr. Bowen explained, “I’ve seen young people thinking that they’re called to marriage when they’re actually not even a full person yet. There’s the danger of looking for another half to complete your half, instead of being two wholes. God calls you to be a whole person with Him.

“If you don’t work on becoming the person you’re called to be, you actually can’t really love your neighbour because you don’t have anything to give.”

He alone can draw us out of fear and into wholeness, but he certainly places people in our lives to bring joy, growth, and accountability. “God himself is already in community,” Dr. Bowen reminded us. “The trinity’s holy dance is imaging to us the importance of being in a kind of family. I find that very meaningful.”

Kingdom-minded relationships, then, can incredibly powerful. All three professors agreed that something more emerges from unity. “There’s synergy” said Dr. Brouwer, “in building on strengths and reaching out.” Dr. Bowen added that “it cannot only be for yourselves, but must be for other people too. Turning inward can be destructive and unhelpful, but turning outward can be complementary. That’s one of the most amazing things about relationships — the newness in the combination.”

The role of mentors can be helpful in maintaining and enriching friendships in your own life. “Find people who are living out a relationship you want to have,” suggested Dr. Good. “Be purposeful about it and seek them out. It’s a worthwhile learning experience.”

 

The Gift of Singleness

When the topic of singleness surfaced that night, it was not dubbed a misfortune or a shame. Seasons of singleness, ephemeral or long-term, are meant to be fruitful ones.

“Unfortunately, our churches tend to be very marriage and family centric,” said Dr. Good. “When we elevate the status of marriage over singleness hurt is created. Something has to change.” She then proposed that throwing more parties could be part of the solution.

“We throw so many parties for married people! The engagement, the wedding, the baby shower… Single peoples need parties too. Why don’t we make a bigger deal of milestones like career moves and new apartments?” Yes, it is a funny remark, but there is truth to be found in it.

Dr. Brouwer continued with this thinking, saying “we as a church have to find a way to equip and send those who find themselves incredibly gifted, and have far more resources than someone who can sometimes turn inward on their own family life. They have such potential for God’s kingdom.”

“We each have different gifts,” added Dr. Bowen, “and some might not necessarily be given the gift of marriage — or may choose not to take it. But that doesn’t mean that they are not an absolutely vital part of the body.

“I think it’s deeply wrong of us to assume that there’s only one way to be human.”

 

Final Advice

Here are the panelists’ final last wise words for Redeemer students:

 Dr. Darren Brouwer: “Life can be hard. That’s the reality of it, and trying to flee from tough situations can get messy. It’s so important to prepare who you are as a person, and trust in God in order to withstand the storms that are coming. Through great friendships, and deep relationships, life can be rich and full at the same time.”

Dr. Marie Good: “No matter how cliché it is, and regardless of your calling, focus on your relationship with God. Keep walking that faith road with perseverance. Also, I encourage you to worry less about what other people are thinking about you. God’s got big things in store!”

Dr. Deborah Bowen: “If you hide God’s Word in your heart, he can use it when you need it. A number of times, in difficult spots, a passage of scripture has popped in my head. I haven’t looked for it, but it’s there because I’ve hidden it in my heart before.

“Also, make the most of this Christian environment! You’ll make friends here that you’ll have for the rest of your life. Whether they turn out to be your spouse or not is neither here nor there, in a sense. You want to have people that you can call up 45 years from now and say, ‘I’m going to be in your part of the world next month, can I stay with you?’ and they’ll say ‘Sure, it’d be wonderful to see you!’”

So have courage and discernment when giving of yourself to others. Know that “iron sharpens iron,” and Christ delights the whole of his Body. Seek Heaven for wholeness, and love with audacity. These things bring depth to life’s seasons, and surely make relationships worth it.


Seeing Scripture with Renewed Eyes

Jeremy Segstro | Deedz 

A woman approached us, apparently high on crystal meth. The temperature hovered above freezing as a gentle wind blew the misty beginnings of a rainfall from the evening sky. She came to us from the crowd of people gathered around a Salvation Army food distribution van at a small parking lot in downtown Hamilton. 

She told us that she was interested in a pair of the gloves that we were sharing along with the usual hot chocolate, hoping to cover her frantically shaking fingers from the cold winter elements. When I offered her a New Testament along with the gloves, her eyes lit up! She said, "I have my own Bible.  Do you want to see?" Of course, I was very pleased to hear this and encouraged her to show me.

She took out this beautiful red leather Bible perhaps the cleanest and most expensive thing she owns. She said that she got it from her grandmother. I asked her if she had a favourite book of the Bible or a favourite passage, and she answered that she did.  She wanted to try to find it for me, but because she was shaking so badly, with her hair matted and in her eyes, she couldn't find it.

 Another girl who was there with Deedz offered to find the passage for the woman, and so, at the woman's request, she turned to Psalm 23. Suddenly the woman stopped shaking.  She brushed the hair out of her eyes and read in an amazingly clear voice the most heartfelt, comfort-filled reading of Psalm 23 that I have ever experienced. Words cannot do it justice. I honestly feel that you have never heard Psalm 23 truly until you have heard this woman speak it.

And it got me thinking. In middle class Christian communities, we read Psalm 23 and think that it applies to us exactly the way it did for David that we have problems just like his. And I am not trying to minimize our problems. The devil does not discriminate in his attacks based on economic status. We can be hit with depression, disease, anger, jealousy, and many other things.

 But if this woman, who can no longer see her kids or grandkids (she has both, even though she is only 40), who lives on the street, who is addicted to drugs and is having sex for money to buy more drugs, can read Psalm 23 and take it to heart, how much more can we realize how truly blessed we are? 

Deedz shares God's love in downtown Hamilton every Friday night.  Meet at the Rec Centre at 6pm to participate.

What is Love....

Quinton Mol 

Recovering a Christian Perspective on Valentine's Day

With February around the corner, many people have Valentine’s Day on their mind. Some people are euphoric with the opportunity to spoil one’s spouse or significant other with flowers, chocolates, and an evening where many — in some ways — can paint the town red. Others groan at the gratuitous costs and the potential of being #foreveralone on this nonsensical holiday.

The celebration of love is an intriguing one in today’s society. Love is a very weighted term meaning many things to many people, both in definition and in practice. This is a day with a long history and much potential, but only if we stop being lied to about the truth of this holiday. It is a day rooted in Christian marriage, yet it has deviated far from this Christian institution. Let’s take a look.

There has been a lot of lore around the origins of the day in which we either commemorate St. Valentine or idolize infatuation. The most common of these brings us back to the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. During his short yet successful reign as emperor (268-270 AD), he passed an edict banning marriage. Though some are quick to pin this as a religious indictment, it was more a military maneuver. In a report on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s webpage, they too clarified that Emperor Claudius thought that a single man would fight better than a married man, which is why he passed the edict. However, people continued to marry.

Marriage was very different in the polygamous society which was the Roman Empire, but as people kept converting to Christianity, they too conformed to the monogamous Christian way of marriage. A Roman priest known as Valentine was the one to officiate these marriages in the name of God. Emperor Claudius found out, had him arrested, flogged and martyred. Martyrdom for marriage. Death for the sake of love. That is the meaning we take out of this day: love. But a deeper meaning comes from recognizing St. Valentine’s obedience to the law of God and the Christian tradition.

What: obedience to the law of God? That seems to be a wishful claim to make from this story. But when one does the dirty work to dig into Scriptures we realize that love is equivocal to obedience. The Christian claim of “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8) and if you love [God], you will keep His commandments (Jn. 14:28) is far different from society’s definition of love. You see, we all have been lied to, being told that infatuation is the same as love. That if you love someone, you will always agree with them. But most detrimental of all, that love is selfish.

Now no one would admit that love is selfish outright. It is more evident in the way we phrase things: “I need to find my soulmate”, you need to find the person who “compliments you”, the one who “fulfills you”. You see, we are all selfish, and we are all sinful. So as long as we are selfish, we cannot love. And as long as you are sinful, you cannot obey God. Love must not be divorced from God. God is love. We need God in order to love and we cannot love if we do not follow God. Here we can recover meaning in Valentine’s Day. We can commemorate a day (and everyday) to love and to marriage just as St. Valentine did.

In order to do so, we need to know the true version of love. As stated above, love is rooted in the very character of God and manifested in obedience to God. That is where the epic of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 gains its true weight, as Michael Emmanuel taught us at a recent HotSpot. It is true that “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[ it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

This is only true as far as these traits are bound in lawful obedience to God, and it is lawful obedience to God that brings about the Kingdom of God here on earth. The true prayer of love is the prayer that Jesus himself taught us to pray: your kingdom come, your love be done.

We have a polemical issue at hand. We can idolize infatuation, or we can worship God. We can reclaim Valentine’s Day to make it more than a day devoted to romantic rendezvous. We can show the world the true likeness of God by showing them the true likeness of love. So before you say “I love you” to that special someone, be sure to first say “I love you” to the One who teaches us to love. 

History of Thanksgiving

Michael Emmanuel

Canadians often discuss what it is that makes us Canadian. We have a hard time identifying ourselves because it seems there’s nothing substantial that makes us us. Usually sprinkled throughout these conversations are comments about Canadian tolerance, acceptance, and the multi-cultural nature of Canadian society. Somehow it becomes a virtue to celebrate moral and political relativism.

Often the conversation deteriorates, rather quickly, into jokes about not being American. (As if not being American makes you Canadian, just like not being Catholic makes you Protestant.) Canadians aren’t conditioned into accepting some national myth of divine favor and exceptionalism like Americans are. Canadians, so the story goes, are allowed to have diverse identities stemming from a host of cultural and religious origins. And we are darned proud of celebrating Baal and Asherah right alongside Jesus Christ.

No matter how upsetting it is to the enemies of liberty, you can’t just kick Christianity out of the Canadian identity. It’s in the very blood and soil of our nation, and it’s the bond that really makes us Canadians. Thanksgiving is an annual reminder of that fact.

Many people might think that Thanksgiving Day is an American import, something carried over by American Loyalists who moved to Canada around the time of America’s War for Independence (commonly misnamed the American Revolution). Certainly many of us have heard the story, almost myth-like in its quality.

It was September of 1620. Some English Puritan pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower for the New World to escape religious persecution under King James I. After a sixty-six day journey, they landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. There the settlers determined to enter into a covenant with God in establishing their new home:

“Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid…”

But the winter was cruel to the pilgrims, and many of the settlers were forced to remain aboard the ship throughout the winter as their companions succumbed to malnutrition and disease and many eventually died. Spring came and favorable weather allowed the survivors to begin building their settlement with the aid of two Native Americans who miraculously, it appeared, knew English. By harvest, the Puritan settlers were established, and in late November they gathered together to celebrate God’s guidance and protection: the first Thanksgiving.

Two years later, after a failed communist experiment nearly led the plantation back into starvation, Governor William Bradford established a system of private property and the colony once more thrived. The pilgrims gathered again to give thanks to God after Bradford delivered his famous Thanksgiving Proclamation:

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables… [and] has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

From thereon out, Thanksgiving became an established part of the American experience.

Now while the story may have its charm, it’s not a Canadian story. Our history doesn’t so closely define us with covenants made with the Almighty God. Thanksgiving is something we borrowed from America, but we divorced it of its religious connotations and made it a secular holiday for everyone. Besides, whatever your views on Thanksgiving, it’s an American import and has nothing to do with the real Canadian identity. Or so many people might think. But actually, historical precedent says Canadians practiced Thanksgiving first.

In 1578, forty years before Plymouth Rock, the British explorer Martin Frobisher sailed the Canadian North in search of the Northwest Passage. Sailing around present day Nunavut, his fleet of 15 ships suffered freak storms and impassible ice, even losing one of the ships, forcing the voyagers back to their anchorage in Frobisher Bay. There the surviving explorers gathered to celebrate communion: “ye first signe, scale, and confirmation of Christes name, death and passion ever knowen in all these quarters.” Robert Wolfall, “preached a godly sermon” reminding the men to be thankful to God for their miraculous deliverance in those dangerous parts.

In 1604, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in Canada and celebrated a feast of thanks with their Native Canadian neighbors, and even established the “Order of Good Cheer.”

 From its beginnings, even as the explorers were mapping the territory and establishing the first settlements in Canada, just as in America, men and women were setting aside days of thanks to remember the work of God in their lives – His protection, His guidance, and His Providence over their own lives and the course of history. God is as much a part of Canada’s identity as it is of America’s. The official holiday has been celebrated since 1879, and in 1957 the Parliament of Canada issued a proclamation which declared that the second Monday in October was to be:

“A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest which Canada has been blessed…”

Canada has a definite identity. It’s not something borrowed from America, although it is something shared. From our inception we were a nation defined by our Lord who has “dominion from sea to shining sea.” Thanksgiving celebrations are just one more reminder of that fact.

Next time you hear your fellow Canadians begin a conversation about who we are as Canadians, or next time an American friend asks you what it means to be Canadian, confidently assert that to be a Canadian means to be a Christian. It means to recognize that God keeps our land glorious and free. And give thanks that God blessed us with that privilege, for it is when we forget this fact that we cease to be Canadians. It is when we forget this that we shall no longer be glorious and free… But I’m afraid my words are already falling on deaf ears.

 

A Lesson To Ourselves On Being Loved

Nina Schuurman

The leaves on the trees are slowly turning reddish-orange hues; the crisp smell of fall is sensed in full force throughout campus. We're starting to face the reality that assignments pile up and papers need to be written… eventually. It's that time of the year.

 The reality is that university is full of obligations. You need to do your schoolwork, attend that extracurricular you signed up for, eat right and exercise (a little), spend time with your dorm or your friends, and rush off to that job you got on campus. The reality is that life doesn't really stop, does it? And it's getting to be that time of the year when we start to feel that a bit, don't we?

 Whoever you are, this is just your little reminder that you are loved. And you aren't just loved because you did well on that midterm, or because you’ve been keeping on top of your readings. You're not loved because you went down to Deedz a couple of times this semester, or just because you are loved by the people here. None of those things really add or take away from your lovableness.

You were loved before you got here. You were loved before you did anything right. You were loved before you did anything wrong, and you're still just as loved after. You're loved even though your peers spread a little gossip about you, and you're loved even though you slept through your morning class the other day. You're loved by the King, and He's steady, even when you're not.

Your value isn't in what you do (or don't do) at all. Your worth isn't in your studies, your friendships, or in your impressively long list of extracurriculars. Taking on that “other thing” isn't going to add value to your character. You know this already. Your value is in who are you are, and guess what? The Lord knows who you are. You are His. You are Beloved. Nothing will change that; therefore nothing will ever change your value. Find rest in that.

So try to be like Him: love yourself. Spend time getting to know you. Ask the hard questions about your character. Ask what your limits are and be honest with yourself as you answer. Take long walks through the orchard and pray out loud. Take a load off. Sip a little tea and unwind before bed sometimes instead of cramming for that test. Listen to the Lord whispering in your ear through the mess of your worries, to-do lists, and the clutter of your life: “Shhh. It's okay, my child. I'm here. It's okay.”

Josh's Star

Elise Arsenault | Reporter 

A Reflection on Childlike Faith

Josh has the cheekiest grin. It’s a Cheshire Cat kind of smile that takes up half his face, and it always precedes a borderline inappropriate comment or brilliant remark. Josh is 10 years old and he laughs with his shoulders. He has the word “CAMP” shaved into the back of his white-blond buzz cut, and daily colours it in with a blue marker to keep it legible. Josh has a firm handshake and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It is the summer of ’13, and my co-leader Damon and I (temporarily named “Boombox”) will be caring for him and four other boys for two weeks at Ontario Pioneer Camp. Truth is, we don’t quite know what to expect from Josh, but it’s not long before we learn.

For one thing, Josh feasts on attention. He is soon renowned for his ability to shout something bonkers precisely when the group falls silent before announcements or prayer. He is quirky in his habits and 'phases.' For example, one day he only speaks in rhyme. Another, he decides to wear every single one of his shirts — all at once. He is incredibly intelligent. He carries around an intricate Rubik’s Cube-esque fidget toy that he flicks back and forth into complex shapes and patterns whenever he grows bored. He has an extensive knowledge of the world, the army, and the Bible. Though often leaving us frustrated, exhausted and/or embarrassed, most often Josh leaves us speechless.

My favourite example of this takes place toward the end of our last week. We are heading back to our sections after dinner to prepare for a camp-wide game (likely a version of “capture the flag”), when a quick head count leaves us short by one camper — one Josh, to be precise. I turn around and immediately spot him standing in the middle of the parking lot, staring up at the sky with his mouth open and his arms to his sides. I call him over, but he doesn’t acknowledge me. I try again and walk towards him, all leader-like, deciding on the best behavioural strategy to apply to the situation.

 “Boombox,” he says, without looking away, “I see a star.”

Now, it’s just after dinner so the sky is bright and blue in hue. I begin to tell him that and yet—

“I see a star. Look harder.” So there I stand, open-mouthed and floppy-armed, squinting to humour him when — I see it. It’s teeny, but it’s bright and completely still. It’s not a plane, or a cloud, or a bird, and soon Damon wanders over with intrigue. Without looking away, we prod him to squint for himself — he sees it too. After being silent for some time, he says something along the lines of:

“You know, bud, you pay attention to things a lot of people miss.”

 It is so true. I quickly notice, however, the irony of the statement. Here stands a boy who supposedly has a deficiency in being attentive, yet his catching a glimpse of that odd star points to the opposite! We wait for Josh to say something, but he shrugs and skips away instead. I later made a comment about naming that star after him, to which he responded:

“God already has a name for that star, Boombox.”

You’re right, Josh. You’re so right.

Now, why do I share this story? Partially because I’m camp-sick, and partially because I think we should be reminded of a few things this guy exemplifies. The themes are no mystery, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t golden:

Whether it’s 12 hours of rhyme-time or sporting 12 shirts at once, we ought to have moments of silliness. There’s a quirky side to us for a reason, and indulging it every once in a while does some good for the soul.

 Just as Josh noticed a day-star, we ought to challenge what challenges us and invite others to do the same — even when they’re stubborn and leader-like.

Just as God wakes each star by their name, so he knows yours; so he calls yours, and so he delights in yours. He takes pride in you and your understanding of his promises.

Childlike faith is something Jesus stresses in the gospels. Not only does He take pleasure in us becoming like children, but He deems it a necessity if we are looking to enter His Kingdom! He tells us that believing as a child means having whole trust, giddy devotion and sky-high anticipation to see the heavenly eclipse the earthly. This is His heart’s desire as our Abba, and our heart’s design as His beloved.

Josh’s stories help me to remember these things. I hope that, even now, you’re recalling stories and names closer to home that help you to remember. Let’s yield to these reminders together — as they pull at our pant-legs and petition for piggy-backs — and take them to heart. 

Why Men Don't Act Like Men

Michael Emmanuel | Student of Redeemer

It has been said, “Our culture is characterized by men who are embarrassed to be men.” No doubt we have all heard at some point about the death of biblical masculinity in the Church today, the abandonment of men from church, the lack of male leadership, etc. But what are the standard responses to this problem?

Two years ago, there was a conference tour going around North America led Mark Driscoll and other popular pastors of the time. It was the “Act Like Men” tour, and my dorm at the time watched the video series they produced as part of our dorm devotionals. It was, frankly, disappointing. The passion was there, the intentions were great, but the material was negligible. We learned things like: be leaders, take spiritual responsibility, love your families, hold firm to your faith, and live up to your calling.

All excellent things, but nothing that pertained particularly to biblical masculinity. In other words, without trying to oversimplify it, the advice was: do things every Christian should do, just be better at it than women. More than that, the conference seemed to assume something I think most people today in the Church do: that men are somehow the problem.

I know it’s true men aren’t taking responsibility, that they aren’t taking on leadership, that they are being lazy, stupid, and insolent, but has anyone bothered to ask why this is? Did men one day just suddenly give up out of the blue? Why don’t we have this same problem with women? Are they somehow religiously superior to men? Are they more moral than men?

Certainly our feministic culture would love to tell us this is the case – one need only turn on a television sit-com or attend a public university humanities lecture to hear that. But I want to suggest that there’s a different answer. The reason men have abandoned the Church was because the Church abandoned them. The Church castrated men by abandoning an efficacious gospel in favor of a sentimental gospel. In turn men, who preferred not to be castrated, left the churches.

Of course we recognize that outside the Church, men cannot really be men. The Church doesn’t minimize our personality; the Church, through the gospel, gives us our personality back. As C.S. Lewis writes, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” Thus, men are abandoning the Church, or at least abandoning the hope of being a man inside the Church: “Men are bewildered with the world around them and with the responsibilities that a man of God should bear in such a world. Some meekly submit to our cultural rebellion against masculinity; others silently fume, not knowing what to do.” (C.S. Lewis)

All the while these men have lost a genuine biblical masculinity.

This is all because the Church abandoned the efficacious gospel, the gospel found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We are usually taught that this passage is about missions. But what is missions? Most people seem to think that missions is all about global evangelism. However, the Missio Dei  is hardly so small.

The Great Commission is Christ’s renewal of the cultural mandate given to man in Genesis 1. That was the command for man to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” and to “have dominion.” Man failed in that calling when he fell in the garden, but that did not eliminate the mandate, it only meant that men were now unable to fulfill it. Christ came that we might once again do what we were created for. Have you ever asked, “what is my salvation for?” It’s for the life of the world!

 Meanwhile, the Church teaches us that the Great Commission, and thus the Gospel, is all a grand chain letter scheme. One theologian puts it like this:  

“What do you tell a newly converted adult when he asks the question, ‘Alright, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Now what do I do?' Modern [Evangelicalism] says mainly all he has to do is tell someone else about what just happened to him. Then that person tells another, and so on, until the Rapture revokes the Great Commission.

 “[Evangelicalism] looks at the gospel as if it were some kind of gigantic chain letter scheme. Nothing is of value in God’s sight except keeping this chain letter going. But the gospel is not a chain letter. It is the good news that Jesus has already overcome the world and gives His disciples authority to extend dominion over history before he returns in judgement.”

The Great Commission is not about 'going;' that is not the imperative verb in the passage, even though our English translations make it seem so. The Great Commission is about 'making,' that is, making disciples and baptizing the nations. We are to be culture makers, nation builders, civilization founders. That’s the greatness of the great commission!

What happens when we lose this? We lose manhood.

Men were created for dominion. That’s what Psalm 8 teaches us: “You have made [man] to have dominion over the works of your hands.” This was the reason God created Adam to work before He brought him Eve. The dominion covenant was given to the federal head of mankind before the marriage covenant. Dominion is thus a prerequisite for marriage and the family. A man’s calling is more basic than his need for a partner. Hence some men can live without marrying, but no man can live without work.

When you take the greatness out of the Great Commission and make it solely about evangelism, you castrate men. You say to him: your work is not as important as evangelism. You are a less spiritual person if you do not get involved in missions. Unless you lead in a church youth group, children’s ministry, or the worship band, you aren’t being a Christian man. Or to put it in the reverse; If today, right now, you committed to loving God more, what kinds of things would you start doing more of?

Who thinks to say, 'I’ll get good grades in school so I can get a good job as an accountant and bring glory to God by being a good accountant?' Who says, 'I’ll join a political party and run for office to bring glory to God in politics?' Who says, 'I’ll join a local soccer league and bring glory to God by winning lots of games?' Who thinks, 'I’ll get back to my parent’s farm and milk cows to produce the best milk for the glory of God?' Why do only 'spiritual' activities make our lists? Are these things mentioned any less dignifying, any less religious, or any less holy than doing something 'spiritual?'

Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” In Colossians 1:16-18 he writes:

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

All of life is religious. All of life must be brought captive to Christ. God cares about your work. The gospel is efficacious: it effects change in us. It effects the redemption of all of life, not the reduction of life in to a small compartment of spiritual things amongst an otherwise secular life.

But when you tell men that their work is somehow below the level of real spiritual work, you create two tiers of religiosity. In one tier you have the really spiritual people: the women, and the men who have castrated their manhood to focus their lives solely on 'spiritual things.' On the other end you have men who just aren’t spiritual. They must think of their work as inferior, or they must leave the church. Many men just leave the church. 

The reduced gospel becomes a sentimental gospel. Christ’s work didn’t effect the redemption of all life and the consummation of the cultural mandate. Instead it makes us 'super-spiritual' people. Since spiritual life has no reference to daily life, it can only be expressed through feelings of transcendence. Thus, when we are called as men to imitate Christ’s love, love loses its content and becomes sentimental.  Feelings replace knowledge, emotions replace doctrine, and passionate hysteria replaces being led by the Spirit.

The solution can begin with us. God is always faithful to his people, no matter how small the remnant. Biblical masculinity doesn’t have to die. We can revive it, with God’s help. But we must begin to refocus our thinking so that we see that all of life is religious. We must allow men the dignity of being a man whether he’s a pastor or a spiritual leader, or whether he’s a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. But we cannot reduce manhood to a limited view of spirituality.

For the Faint of Heart

Letting Ourselves Sense the Creator's Presence

Melissa Payne

Seasons are seasons; they are temporary and will eventually come to an end. Yes, even the good ones. But that is the beauty and malleability of life. It changes, and constantly teaches us with its new chapters, windows and doors. 

Some of you may be experiencing Spring, a time of rejuvenation, refreshment and joy. Where fighting for joy isn’t really a reality, the fight comes with ease, and God’s presence just welcomes you each day without you even really doing much — such grace. Where gifts and thankfulness are found in the smallest of things. Drink in this season, and let it take up residence in your heart, because it’s these seasons we must revisit and bring to remembrance when the night comes.

And though the good seasons come to an end for a time, so do the seasons of struggle, sorrow and tears. Perhaps you are in a dry season – maybe the driest. The forest is bare, and the wind brings more of a chill than refreshment to your bones. You are waiting. Waiting and longing for Spring, for colour instead of that bleak shade you feel you’ve been sitting under.

Perhaps it has been a season full of questions and absent of answers, confusions and aching instead of clarity and comfort. If so, know this: the wilderness is, yes, a season. A temporary chunk of time. And though it may feel like forever and no light is in sight, it will come to an end. It is not just something you happen to stumble upon; no, it is a means for God to draw you to himself. Even when you feel like you can’t face him, he is working and tilling the soil of your heart in ways you don’t yet understand or perceive. If I have learned anything in the small amount of time I’ve had living thus far, it is that he is incredibly intentional and has purposes for things that we have yet to discover. We are not asked to always understand, but to trust him and obey, following him even into the winter and the unknowns.

And though at times it seems like darkness is your closest friend, I urge you, don’t stop pleading, praying, crying, knocking or waiting. Whatever it is this seasons brings out of you. Don’t give up on hope – it has never, nor ever will, give up on you. Light will come. The Sun will shine again, and when it does, your love for its warmth will have increased, and you will have discovered your great need for a touch from heaven.

One of the most valuable things I have learned in the seasons of walking (slowly walking) through the desert is that it is not a reason or “proof” for me that God is not here, not real or that he has forgotten me. Quite the opposite. It’s the darker, dry times that remind me that I have “tasted and seen of the Lord” that I have experienced him, his peace and his goodness. Because my longing for it tells me so.

The fact that I miss him, that I long for living water, and that I recognize my own thirst tells me there is a God who is not far off, but intimately woven into humanity and the only one who actually gives me Life. As Saint Augustine once said: “You have put salt in our mouths that we might thirst for you.”

So, don’t stop praying, don’t stop hoping. And yet, even when you do stop praying, when you do stop hoping in those moments, be gentle with yourself; be gracious as he is gracious and gentle with you. Surround yourselves with people who can do what you can’t, and who will grab your hand or shoulder and remind you, “things will be okay.” Do the things that remind you that you are alive, and that hope is never lost, even if it feels lost to you now. Rest in his ability to hold you, and know that joy will again come. 

Searching For God

Letting the Creator Sense our Presence

Justin Eisinga | Reporter

Pushing through a season of spiritual dryness and awakening one’s heart to the presence of our relational God is akin to the feeling one gets when he or she is searching for something important that went missing months ago. 

At first, one looks in a determined frenzy with a hope that the item will be in the next spot. Eventually, the hope of finding the treasured belonging wanes, and the search begins to slow. You give up, but every couple days and every few weeks the search begins again, with no reward. 

One day, the item miraculously appears, and joy is returned to life; flowers begin to bloom and everything smells delightful and everyone looks beautiful.

Pushing through a season of spiritual dryness and awakening one’s heart to the presence of a relational God is akin to this feeling. At first, one tries desperately to feel God’s presence somehow and somewhere, but frustration sets in when that comforting feeling is nowhere to be found.  

After a couple days and a few weeks and several months, the search for “God” grows tiring and disheartening. Only one revelation awakens the heart to the presence of God: perhaps far too much time was spent searching for God’s presence instead of taking time to consider whether God can sense my presence. 

Rabbi and Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel states: “we cannot make him visible to us, but we can make ourselves visible to him.”

In my personal experience of spiritual dryness, I often find that I lament to God about how I don’t feel him or how I don’t understand why a certain event takes place. Yet I rarely take time to simply meditate on his words or bask in his beautiful creation.

I go about my day-to-day life, spending time with friends and running errands, but it is not very often that I find myself in a state of submission, letting God have my presence fully. Instead I search for him and long for his ‘presence’ with such full-bodied determination that I forget to slow down and allow God to use me, to move in and through me.

You may find yourself at this stage of the journey now.

For several months you may have found yourself awakening to a perceived ‘absence’ of God’s presence, but today you find yourself awakening not just to the presence of God, but more so your own presence before this God who created you and the sky and the mountains and the sea.

Rest in this stage. Rest in the recognition that the Creator of the universe has been with you, moving in and through you all along. Rest in it, and let it be the fuel for the journey ahead, a journey filled with the unexpected joy of life lived in and through the presence of God.

Slow down, rest, and make yourself visible to the one who sustains all life, even when it all feels parched and dry.

 

What a Three-Week-Old Taught Me in Three Days

Elise Arsenault | Reporter

Little. From her pout to her tushy, every bit of her is little. Her hair is dark and thick and her eyes are ocean-wide. She is weeks old and her teeny fingers have already smeared their prints all over my heart. I know she will not always be ours; one day the sun will rise and she will set into someone else’s car seat. Still, my stubborn affections for her refuse to subside.

This past October, my Mum moved from our home in Oakville, Ontario to the Hamilton mountain. While her decision tends to my need for drive-by hugs and clean laundry, it was made in hopes of easing a greater need: the demand for foster parents in the city of Hamilton.

The Children’s Aid Society application process took about nine months, which is fitting seeing as our first foster child is an infant. For confidentiality reasons, Ill call her K. K came to live with us over the reading break and will be staying until she is either returned to her biological parents or warded to the crown and put up for adoption.

I don’t know her and she doesnt know me, and yet seventy-two hours, twenty diaper-changes and two-dozen feedings later shes unraveled in me bundles of thought on the preciousness of life and the character of God. Our family venture has only begun: there is still much to be learned, beheld and pondered, but here are some of baby Ks reminders to me thus far.

I need to treat people like they were born babies. Its a laughable remark, but when I realize how much goes into caring for little ones, and that we were all little once, it makes me want to squeeze everyones cheeks and give their ma and pa a pat on the back! I feel like Im in on the incredible secret that is the miraculousness of growth. Each soul I meet is one-of-a-kind, and everyone is someones everything. How would my interactions change if I thought of them as such? Patience and compassion would surely abound.

A babys cry rattles me. Even when I know that someone is with K that shes just fussing while being changed my core will shake at the sound. Its a tight, binding, adrenaline-inducing feeling and it awakens within me every time. Often it is triggered even before she sounds; when her face scrunches up and her nose-breathing quickens Cue the maternal reflexes.

If I am so affected by the outcry of this one (who is not even my own), how much more, then, is God attentive to my cry? I barely understood this concept before, and even now I only see in part. All I know is that my first instinct is always to hold her. Even when she cannot verbally articulate this need, I see her and I hear her. With Gods image as our bearing and his eternity on our hearts, there is a yearning to respond. To live is to respond to our surroundings, to Himself, and to each other, and His response to us will forever be absolute love.

There are still mountains of morals to be learned from baby K these ones are merely mustard seeds. We are the treasured in the palm of the Treasurer, and children held by He whose affections are relentless. We are heard by our Abba, Father; thus our outcries will never be in vain.

The Gratitude of a Fourth Year

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Sarah Poaps | 4th Year Student

It is now reading break, and it is beginning to dawn on me that when I get back to Redeemer, this will be it. I will return to school and hit the ground running and non-stop until I have written my final exam.

I have grossly oversimplified the whole remainder of my semester. Of course there is Easter, there are lulls in each week … sort of? There is church in the box in between. A couple Crown papers are yet to come out… There are lots of things to look forward to!

Over my years at this institution, I have heard and partaken in a reasonable amount of critiques towards Redeemer University College, both fair and unfair. Honestly, though, I would say mostly unfair. I will not get into these complaints, for there is a far better place for them to be corrected, better clarified or regretted. The purpose of this article is to explain my experience and my gratitude towards the professors that have taught me. Do we really understand how difficult it is to teach – and to teach well – the academics we are studying with the worldview that we have?

This institution has provided space for learning general subjects: Science, Psychology, Social Work, Business, English, arts, etc. I am a psychology student and a wannabe English student. While at a public institution, I would be limited to only speak on psychology, but since I am educated in Liberal Arts, I do have the privilege to be moderately versed in each respective discipline. I have grown to truly appreciate and take advantage of this claim, and I would encourage you to do so as well.

I have come to truly appreciate the disposition the professors have with their subject material. Professors have to teach the same subjects a secular institution would, but here there exists the challenge to teach honestly and openly from a Christian worldview. The courses that I have appreciated most are those where the professor does not tack on Christianity in a small box at the end, but rather discovered their origins exist in a Creator.

This I have learned to be a skill that does not come easily. I have written my fair share of essays that explore say the ins and outs of dementia, and my concluding paragraph is often a verse and a sappy recognition of where I stand as a Christian. I have been challenged that this will simply not cut it, especially when I leave this school and have to write papers for a secular institution. Sure I could use the same paper framework, just take out my Christian perspective.

Through psychology I am learning what it really means when the Bible says that God is in and through everything. It is quite literal, and I cannot escape Him. Then, how should my writing or explanation of my education change? I think it will not be used as a defense or a cop out, and it would not be easily removed from the papers I am writing. I think it will come out with boldness when I do not expect it to. It should be read in between the lines. Ideally, the secular reader would be struck with curiosity, but the Christian reader would look at it and trust the writer behind it could only have these if there is belief in a Creator, knowing the writer does not believe himself to be God.

Firstly, I would like to point out the vast differences in the denominational backgrounds that are entering this education system. It has been my experience that the Christian is the most critical of his fellow Christian. While this is necessary for some level of accountability out of love and community building with one another, it is incredibly harmful on another level. It is harmful to the one who critiques, and to the one who is critiqued. In a religion class it was wisely pointed out that, in the space that Redeemer is, we are all reading the same book. Instead of telling the other that he is reading his Bible wrong, perhaps we need to take a step back and ask God what he truly meant when he said “he came to bring life so that we might live it full” (John something…). What I mean to say is that religion majors are not exempt from this difficulty of our clashing worldviews; at the same time we all proclaim Christianity.

I would like to share with you a bit of what I have learned … academically. I would like to share with you what goes on in these classes. I am often whisked into a difficult conversation between theologies, that I come in with, and psychology, that makes more sense out of life. It’s a black and white conversation in theology, where in psychology there are more grey areas than black and white. First and foremost, though, I would like to say that through psychology at Redeemer, the connection between the purpose of the soul and service of God has beautifully been made. We were created for God, and creation was for us. We might now enjoy life and have joy in abundance on this earth. Seek out the things of man and you will see that it is all vanity, to paraphrase Solomon. I have found that the more I try to make sense of things, through theology or whatever logic I have, I am more often humbled to find that I cannot. I don’t like this lack of control, and I think this is where I would like to play God.

Now I should mention theology for me; perhaps I do not have the right theology or I have not allowed my theology to breathe as it should. I have not let it come out with me into the world, where I have allowed psychology to do this. I can reason the brokenness of the world because we are humans who seek to find a creator, who will indeed satisfy and be our daily bread. Christians and non-Christians alike get this wrong in so many ways. I see that this is where psychology explains the inability to be fully human. We cannot be fully human unless we are able to meet and recognize our Creator.

In one class this year we were assigned to read a chapter from Middleton and Walsh’s book Truth is Stranger than it Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age. It is a beautifully written chapter that has prompted me to place this book on my summer reading list. The chapter is trying to clarify what it means for the Christian to live in a postmodern age. “This means that our translation of creational glossolalia can be wrong, and we should be able to expect reality itself to correct us, if we are only willing to listen.”

I like to believe that as Christians we are asked to live in the reality of God. The reality that promises us all things will be made new. My theology that I wrestle with will be made sense of; it will be clarified.

I would rather sit quietly and listen to what you think than tell you what I think and firmly believe. I want to know why you think and believe what you do. I want to know how you came to those conclusions and what events in your life have brought you to these conclusions.

Here at Redeemer I have seen and reflected on my once yearned for independence. It exists in the hurt of being human, and trying to be human with other humans. Instead of being quick to criticize this school, or even each other, I challenge you to stand firm with your brothers and sisters.  Listen instead of trying to correct all the time. I am learning this, for me at least, to be the most beneficial thing I can do. I do not know the best way to follow God and to witness God once I step outside of this institution. But I can say that this institution has challenged me to wrestle with this, and to find my own way. I am not a consumer, but one who is expected to create.

What Will Your Final Thesis Say?

Tristan Persaud

In the coming months, many of us will open the doors of Redeemer, walk through the halls and sit in the auditorium for the last time as a student. When we do this, it will be as alumni. Our time here will have come to an end – like a beautifully messy, yet well-intentioned, essay.

Our introduction, being our first year here, outlined what we hoped to accomplish during our journey at Redeemer. Our introduction addressed taking those initial steps in the process of working out big questions like “who am I?”, “what do I believe?”, “where am I going?” and “what should I do with my life?”. During our middle years – the time where we do much of the academic research – we wrestled with these questions and formed some sort of trajectory as we proceeded to our inevitable conclusion. Finally, we arrive in our last year – still alive, still wrestling with the same questions, not necessarily having come to an answer (if you have, let me know) – having certainly a matured understanding of the questions on our mind.

Then it’s all over. We exit this chapter in our lives for the next season/adventure/step in life with our final paper in hand, a document that presents the final thesis of our time here. It represents all that we picked up and took with us, but also all that we left behind and dropped along the way – for better or for worse.

Everything in this world leaves a mark, whether big or small, on everything it interacts with. From the wind that sweeps across the sands of a desert to the hands of a potter, everything is continually shaping and being shaped by all that it interacts with on some level. It’s like the “Butterfly Effect” where a tiny drop in water leads to bigger and bigger ripples across the surface. The way I like to best visualize it is that everything tans you.

Everything is constantly radiating and consuming light, tanning and being tanned; everything is left different than how it was before. Some light can be a positive change, enriching its subject; some can be a negative change, burning and disfiguring the subject’s true identity. Soren Kierkegaard put it in a similar way in The Sickness Unto Death: “sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God . . . Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.”

For those who fellowship with the Light, it would seem appropriate to see ourselves as vessels, our complexion being a reflection of a life spent soaking in the radiance of the Son who fills us with the means to go out into this world. With this, we shine the same light wherever we go, leaving marks along the way – ichthys, if you will – that identify our time spent there with a greater purpose for our lives, drawing everything we interact with back into fellowship with this Light. As free vessels, we also have the choice of filling ourselves with all sorts of darkness, all also radiating light, but a light that disfigures and destroys rather than that which enriches. Just as we pick up and fill ourselves with things that enrich, so can we pick up and fill ourselves with things that will destroy; but just as we fill, so can we also empty and remove those things that don’t bear Light.

Your life does not end when you leave Redeemer; it goes on to another chapter in the overall story that is your life. But an important chapter in your life does end, and what will the synopsis say? Were you burned more times than you were enriched? Did you burn more times than you enriched?

 The essay isn’t finished yet. There’s still time to edit. There’s still time to write.

What will your final thesis say? 

Learning to Live Alone After Life on Campus

Justin Eisinga | Crown Reporter

Living alone in your own space is something of a novelty. It is exciting, of course, especially after several years of sharing a bedroom with another person and making do with small spaces shared between a group of friends. However, the novelty does eventually wear off. After a few weeks of enjoying my own space by blasting music, staying up late, and leaving the lights on, it dawned on me that I was truly, actually, completely alone. 

I share a house with a married couple. I live in the attic, a finished space with broken radiators and wood floors that appear to smile at me as the late autumn snow falls outside the window. I spend a lot of time looking out at the park beside our house, as kids run from their parents’ arms towards the nearby schoolyard and squirrels scurry between trees and my windowsill. As I sit in my chair looking out the window, I find myself reflecting and spending more and more time with no one else but myself. To be honest, I’ve come to the realization that I never really spent much time in this reflective mode over the past several years. I’m beginning to recognize how valuable it really is.

Coinciding with my increased time spent alone, I also made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. On top of this, I’ve been writing more than ever before, altogether a consequence of fourth-year studies and my job with the student newspaper, but also a result of my newfound isolation. In all of this, I’ve been making a conscious effort at reducing the seemingly endless amount of voices that seem to be streaming into my brain at breakneck speed. What I’m only just beginning to uncover is the value found in solitude and the necessity for contemplation.

Perhaps it is a bit premature for me to be providing commentary and advice on aspects of life I am only just beginning to settle into. Perhaps I should be writing this column for you at the end of the school year, after I’ve fully learned my lessons and have an incredible piece of wisdom to share. If you’re anything like me, though, you need to hear this in the midst of the storm that is the academic year (not that we are miserable, but maybe just a little tired). What I want to implore is simply this: do not neglect your soul, for it is your soul that you need to live out of.

It is nearly impossible to live fully out of your friendships. Trust me, I can attest to that. The people you surround yourself with are important, and you surely ought to invest in good relationships. However, they will never completely fulfill you, and they most certainly have power over you (often for good, sometimes negatively so). Likewise, it is also nearly impossible to live completely out of the things you love to do. Whether it is the sport you play well, the musical instrument(s) you excel at, or the opportunities for service that bring you great joy, those things you do with your time are not there to complete you or for you to find all your meaning out of.

Now, don’t read me incorrectly; these are all good things, not evil and certainly not inherently wrong. Friendships are fulfilling and sports are enriching activities. But deep down in the depths of your soul, in the places of your being only you can explore, they shouldn’t be what defines you. 

To spend time in solitude and silence is to care for your soul. In making efforts to do so, we begin to learn about ourselves and about the living God in ways we cannot learn when we are around our friends or engaging in activities, even if we were created for these purposes. It is in solitude that the mask of our soul is peeled off and the walls we have built around it come down. Often, when this takes place, we feel a deep loneliness and our gut reaction is to run away. In a world of many voices, with Facebook, Instagram and iMessage lighting up our phones, loneliness is the last thing we ever need to feel. However, it is only by pushing through this loneliness that we come into the still and quiet solitary clearing. 

Henri Nouwen, a late Catholic priest, writer, and incredibly wise man of God, once wrote: “to live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.” As I write this, I am in this desert. It is a difficult and painful place to be, as I recognize my inequities and faults and the lies that I have been telling myself for too many years. But I smell a spring rain coming, and a garden is being prepared for lush growth.

My fellow students, we all are on different spiritual journeys, but if this resonates within you, heed the call. I wish I had taken better care of my soul when I lived on campus. Do not neglect the importance of seeking time away from the noise and into the quiet places of your heart. Be strong when you face the loneliness that rests within you and walk the path towards a rich and vibrant spiritual life. As Nouwen puts it, embark on the journey of a deeply spiritual life and join the “movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.” 

Profit or Prophet: How Business Students Can Be a Light in the Overlap of Faith and the Firm

Nicolle Katz | Crown Staff

Who are we?

We are The Harvey Specters of this school. Truth be told, we like to flaunt our assets. We're the ones headed to class dressed to the nines, coffee mugs in hand, and yes we'll take a refill – even after 4 PM. If you search for us, you will usually find us huddled around the front library tables by day and attending 1 (or 2 ... or 3) evening classes by night. We speak in revenues and dollar figures, often expressing ourselves in a good spreadsheet or a very tasteful graph. We are the Redeemer Biz Kids.

There is nothing simple about being a Christian in the secular business environment. For students, the path beyond graduation seems ominous, as the business world is portrayed as cutthroat and hostile, with constant deadlines to be met, figures to be reported and promotions to be achieved. Consumerism is glorified and profit is god. Christians find themselves in ethically compromising circumstances where they are faced with morally testing questions: Should I throw my co-workers under the bus to get ahead? Should I manipulate this information? Should I stay quiet even though I know this is wrong? But despite these challenges, Redeemer’s business students intend to use ethics to glorify God through their careers and be a light to the confusing overlap of business and faith.

 To 4th year Patricia Verbeek, being a Christian in business means “knowing when to not fall into society’s pressures in business – not just going along with what the competition and other high heads are doing.”

 “Being a Christian is my first and foremost profession; what I do to earn money will facilitate that calling” explains Jackie Hurst, a 4th year management student. Jackie is one of many students who believe that being in business is a vocation.

 Jackie reflects on the importance of honesty at the workplace. “Management doesn’t blink at white lies or conflicts of interest – that’s the environment. But you, as a Christian, just can’t compromise.”

 Personally, I’ve often been asked why I left Ryerson, forfeiting a Bachelor of Commerce degree to seek out a Bachelor of Arts in Business at a small community-centered school in the mountains. But, as I tell numerous of individuals, the switch was more than worthwhile. I have been so encouraged by the many formative discussions I have had with professors and peers who have been similarly challenged by being an image bearer of Christ through their work. Many of my colleagues have experienced the value of the Christian business community at Redeemer.

 4th year Jessica Prins reveals the benefit of having Christian business peers: “At Redeemer, I am surrounded by people that have the same ideas as I do. I don’t feel out of place when I want to do the right thing. The ultimate goal for us business students is that we want to be lights in the business world even though it is not a typically Christian environment. Even when I graduate, I am glad to have the support of others who feel the same as me.” 

 The students also explained that the business professors at Redeemer have had a hand in inspiring and shaping the businessperson of faith they aspire to be. For this, Jackie said, “I'm not too sure what God wants me to do exactly, but it's great to be encouraged by Professor Busuttil who also believes that God has a plan for me and it's okay not to know right now.

So, what is faith in the firm? It’s integrity, honesty, bravery, prayer, and mission in the workplace; it means staying humble and being an example for those we work with and those we work for. It is being a steward over the resources we manage. It means having a servant heart and being diligent in our activities. Ultimately, it is a calling to advance the Kingdom wherever we work, every single day. We are sure that being a Christian in business will bring about many obstacles, but, as my peers will tell you, we are up for the challenge and embrace the opportunity. 

Who's Afraid of Secularism?

Robert Joustra | Via Comment Magazine

"Don't Panic" is what Douglas Adams inscribed, in large, friendly letters, on the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. His reason, as he explains it, was that the book "looked insanely complicated" to operate, had many omissions, and contained much that was apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate. This is not a bad tree of adjectives for secularism. And neither is Adam's accompanying admonishment: "Don't Panic."

 We up north, at least, can take a few deep breaths. Societies like Canada, namely ones with weak(ening) civil religious cultures, shouldn't panic. I think we're headed for a post-secular age. But some societies, like the United States of America, with strong civil religious histories, may be in for a troubling post-Christian phase. This is because strong civil religion tends to replace strong civil religion. The American gospel isn't going away, but the characters and plot are changing.

 This can get complicated. To get a sense of this, consider that in 2009, Daniel Philpott was trying to make things less confusing when he distinguished no less than nine different "concepts of the secular": four positive or neutral definitions and five negative. In her more recent book, Fighting over God, Janet Epp Buckingham simplifies further, describing two legal-cultural traditions in Canada's approach to religion/secularity: the English/Protestant and the French/Catholic. I've argued this intersects usefully with two dominant approaches to the secular in Canada: (1) Judeo-Christian secularism, a secularism founded on and made possible by the Judeo-Christian tradition in public life; and (2) laïcité, a secularism founded on and made possible by the removal of religion from the public sphere.

 This breakdown gets us a little closer to the kind of secularism that religious people are afraid of. Ominous phrases like those once uttered by David Cameron advocating for a "muscular liberalism" make pluralists nervous about whether a thickening of "public values" won't leave once loyal, now suspicious, subjects on the wrong side of state drawn values boundaries. But there are solid historical reasons to be optimistic north of the 49th parallel. There are, somewhat sadly, inverse but equally solid reasons to be pessimistic south of it.

 It is my opinion that Canada is moving into an increasingly post-secular future. There is good evidence to debate this, ranging from the Charter of Quebec Values to Trinity Western University's most recent troubles launching its law school. But this evidence only seems extreme if it's taken out of historical context. Consider that in 2001, when Trinity Western tried to launch its teacher's college, it never even got beyond the province's College of Teachers before landing in court. When it recently tried to launch its law school, a large number of the provinces' law societies approved it, as did the province itself. In fact, the individual societies of Ontario and Nova Scotia had to break rank with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to dissent, suggesting that TWU has more support than it did in 2001 when the Supreme Court was already handing down an eight-to-one ruling on behalf of their teacher's college.

 What about the Charter of Quebec Values? First of all, that Charter needs to be understood within a European context, which is extremely anxious about its wide and expanding diversity. The anxiety, at least, is not imaginary because, like Canada, European societies are far more diverse as a result of birth rates and immigration than they used to be. Foreign Affairs calls urbanization, youthful religious resurgence, and aging boomer sentiments among the "megatrends" changing the world. In other words, the Charter is hardly the victory cry of a now-dominant secularism, it is a last gasp of a cultural consensus under demographic siege. Politics is often downstream of culture, and there is no surer mark of fragility and crisis in a culture than the need to legislate its existence and protections. Finally, even when the proposed charter came in front of the people of Quebec in the form of a provincial election, it was demolished at the polls. Not only did the desperate political ploy to legislate thicker values expose the fragility of those very things, but the ploy itself was totally defeated by popular consent.

 The trend seems to be toward a more open society, buttressed partly by the global resurgence of religion come home, held in tension by traditional, but potentially transitory exclusive secularity in elite spheres like the academy, law, politics, and media. Even there the evidence is unevenly distributed where, unlike decades ago, we can now name multiple, major advocates for a more open, secular society. The question is how embedded this exclusivity is in these spheres, and whether, over the long-run, it has the moral funding, intellectual vitality, and demographic trajectory to thrive. I don't believe it does.

 Jocelyn Maclure and Charles Taylor in Secularism and Freedom of Conscience argue that strong civil religious cultures tend to be replaced by strong civil religious cultures. This is the case, they say, in Quebec where, after the Quiet Revolution, a strong civil religious Catholic political culture was supplanted for an aggressively secular civil religious culture. They find similar trends in Turkey and France, where formerly strong "religious" civil religions were replaced very rapidly by equally strong secular-liberal civil religions. They write, "[t]hat type of political system replaces established religion with secular moral philosophy." Maclure and Taylor say this is what Jean-Jacques Rousseau meant by "civil religion," and when strong civil religions are toppled in political cultures, the probability is that they will be replaced by a rival, equally strong, civil religious tradition. Thick moral content is needed to combat and supplant thick moral content.

The Charter of Quebec Values is a good news story because it shows that the secular-liberal civil religion of the Quiet Revolution is petering out; its civil religion is weakening, rather than being overrun by another strong civil religion. This is good news for a more open society.

 This is a bad news story for the United States of America, unfortunately. America is considered, most often by those outside of it, a highly civil religious country. And if strong civil religion usually begets strong civil religion, then the expectation for outside observers would be to see America move very quickly from a kind of Protestant Americanism to a kind of post-Christian secularity. We would expect this secularity, further, to be far more intransigent and far more aggressive precisely because it must do the heavy lifting of exorcising an existent "Protestant" civil religion. Of course, this is a bit of an armchair prediction, and neglects certain basic problems of social science, like whether the United States can even any longer be spoken of meaningfully as "one society" with a "civil religion" in the same way as, say, Quebec or Turkey or France were. So while you can take that prediction with a grain of salt, Taylor's suggestion that strong civil religion begets strong civil religion nonetheless gives us a spectrum of ominous options in post-Christian America.

If “strong civil religion tends to replace strong civil religion,” what will this look like in a post-Christian America?

 Read this through the latest civil religious arm wrestle about President Obama's recent executive order on discrimination in hiring. Probably the first thing you'll notice is that everyone has really freaked out. This is partly because the disagreement, namely the freedom to sustain religious codes of practice for religious hiring, is about which civil religious tradition is publicly preeminent. The incumbent Judeo-Christian secularity is holding the line that not only is the freedom to hire within the bounds of religious conviction, but it's a necessity that such institutions be afforded that freedom for a plural society. The challenger, a kind of civil religious secularity, has its own moral and ethical code (now) with the force of American-law, which precludes public religious practice that violates its core conviction of non-discrimination. Why is everyone so panicked? Because what's at stake isn't about a couple hiring cases here and there, but which civil religion is going to carry the day. There is no deux-solitudes (two-solitudes, or two different but coexisting poles) in American civil religion: there is a winner, and there are losers. 

 Compare this to Protestant/English Canada, which had a civil religious tradition, certainly, but one which was more understated. It was also largely (but not entirely) toppled, but continues to enjoy something like public existence and engagement, even if not exclusively any longer on its own terms. It has morphed from what I have called a kind of exclusivism to a kind of open pluralism. The tradition still largely defaults preferentially to Christian sources as the enabling framework for civic and political virtue (in other words, it thinks its own tradition is true), but happily acknowledges that rival rationales also join productively in the common work of politics and public life. You don't need to believe in the Christian God, or hold Christian beliefs, or partake in Christian practices to make substantial contributions to Canada's common life.

 This gets close to what Taylor, in The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, calls a "radical redefinition" of the secular. What deserves to be called secular, he argues, is not some transient arrangement of institutions, or the relationship of the state to religion, but rather the correct response of the democratic state to diversity.  The "post-secular" secularity we need now is one which sustains the principles of democratic liberal politics, but is agnostic on the rationale (religious or otherwise) by which people arrive at those principles. The state, in other words, does not monopolize the rationale or the practices that make the constitutive values of liberal democracy possible. It is a gamble, definitely, and a risky one in a time of anxiety when trust is low. It's what Paul Brink describes as politics without scripts, where both Christianity and secular liberalism have been disestablished.

 Can Canadian political culture capitalize on this kind of radically redefined secularity? I'm optimistic it can, partly because of its long history adjudicating rival civil religions within the same political system, and partly because of the growing demographic diversity of religious people, especially newcomers, to the country. There is no strong civil religious kid on Canada's block to muscle the country into a kind of secular exclusivism, and Canada's historic institutions are deliberately designed to prevent precisely this because of historic Protestant-Catholic tensions. Canada disestablished "Christianity" so long ago that we're onto disestablishing secular-liberalism.

 But where I'm optimistic about post-secular Canada, I'm pessimistic about post-Christian America. The logic of strong civil religion begetting strong civil religion is not a social scientific law, but it does seem probable and convincing. Maybe, like Quebec, American political culture can survive the slow weakening of its civil religion, rather than a rapid hostile takeover.

 Who's afraid of secularism? I guess it depends where you live.

Courageously Vulnerable: Is It Strong To Be Weak?

Carly Ververs

To love at all is to be vulnerable.
— C.S. Lewis

Have you ever noticed that most people hate the word “vulnerable”? The word just seems to bring about the idea of weakness. Vulnerable is defined as being susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. It's synonymous with words like helpless, defenseless, powerless, impotent and weak – none of these words are ones that we want to hear in regards to ourselves.

 Why, then, does C.S. Lewis say that to love is to be vulnerable? And why do I agree with him?

 The second week of school, my RA asked us what we wanted our dorm vision to be for the year. Do we want to be the dorm that always has people over? The dorm that bakes for everyone?

 We decided that we want to be centered in Christ, rooted in Him and founded on Him – the branches to His vine. We were throwing out words that we wanted to grow in, places where we wanted to shine for God – shining in sports and academics, growing in our love, treasuring laughter and family.

 And then my RA used the word “vulnerable”. She asked us what we thought about that and if we wanted to be vulnerable. Most of the girls reacted the way you'd expect them to – one said that she didn't like the word, another suggested open or honest instead. Why would we want to be vulnerable? Isn't that the same as being weak or powerless or helpless? Why would anyone want to be that

 The thing is, I don't think being vulnerable equates to being weak. I think being vulnerable is one of the most courageous things you can do or be. It takes a certain amount of strength to wear your heart on your sleeve, to risk your heart being broken by letting someone close enough to really, truly see it. When you love someone, you give them a piece of yourself. It's impossible not to. How can you love someone and not risk your heart? How can you love someone and not let them in? To truly love someone means to lay your love, your heart, on the line, knowing that they might break it. It's a risk, but it's worth it. 

 As I'm writing and thinking about this, I can't help but think of Jesus. Talk about being vulnerable for love's sake. Helpless, defenseless, powerless, impotent, weak, susceptible – these are not the words that come to mind when I think about Jesus. And yet, when He was spread out on the cross for us, He was weak. He was dying – He did die. To love at all is to be vulnerable. 

 Jesus loves us enough that He died for us. He was willing to let His strength be stripped away and replaced with weakness. Just imagine it. The Son of God hanging on a cross, vulnerable, susceptible to attack – physical, emotional and spiritual attack. The wind whipping at Him. The nails driven through His skin. The mocking scorn aimed at Him from the people below. The full separation from God. Jesus was so vulnerable. His blood spilled, His body broken. Even God the Father turned away. Jesus was all alone, and more vulnerable than He had ever been, than anyone has ever been. 

 That vulnerability, in my opinion, is the ultimate display of strength and of love. I said before that loving someone means giving them a piece of yourself. Jesus didn't just give us a piece of Himself; He gave us everything. He didn't hold anything back. He offered His heart, His body, His blood, knowing that some of us will never accept Him. That some of us will never want Him. That's vulnerability. That's love. That's strength. That's courage. That's bravery. That's my Jesus.

 What does that mean for us, though? How can we be vulnerable for love's sake? I think it's in being honest about our faults and shortcomings. It's in coming clean about our pasts and our struggles. It's in asking the hard questions. It's in putting our pride aside when we're in the wrong and apologizing. It's in confessing our sin to one another. It's in loving each other without expecting anything in return, without judging each other or putting one another down. It's in loving freely, loving deeply, loving relentlessly. It's in risking our hearts. It's in standing up for other people, for what we believe in. It's in standing before God, realizing that it's only made possible by His grace. It's in admitting that we're all desperately in need of that grace. It's in recognizing that we are weak, but that God is strong. It's in going after the wandering sheep. It's in telling people about the faith we have, the gift of eternal life that we have received. It's in obeying the Spirit. It's in being the hands and feet of God, doing what He tells you, going where He leads you. 

 Maybe it's an oxymoron. Courageously vulnerable. But that's what I want to be. Risking my heart. Wearing it on my sleeve. Seeing people's hearts and letting them see mine. Being vulnerable for love's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

A Battle Worth Fighting For

Sarah Poaps 

This summer for a whole week I sat on the sandy beaches of North Carolina, experiencing the ocean’s salty spray. I watched the daily progression of the tide up the shore and then back down. I spent the majority of my time reading books and cooling off my toes in the crashing waves.

 On the last day, I woke up early with my dad to watch the sun rise over the boardwalk. We watched in silence as pelicans flew to the north up the beach. The sun was hidden, slowly rising from behind clouds, but clearly not the same hidden we use to describe something we cannot find.

 This year I have found myself desperately craving to have my heart from the years when I was between 17 or 18 years old. I seemed to have so much excitement for whatever God had in store for me, willing to do or go anywhere for Him. Now that I am living the life I was so excited for, I am a heck of a lot more apprehensive for this upcoming jump, into deeper and deeper waters.

 I feel as though I am on the verge of a new life transition, which I indeed am. But I find that it is preventing me from living where I am currently. It’s a frustrating tension that I welcomed somewhere between August and September.  

 While I wrestle with this state of mind, I am surrounded by kingdom themes. I see it in each sermon, teaching, class and book that is presented before me. The kingdom is at hand; it is present. We are demanded to respond here and now, not in the next season of our physical life.

 I am sitting next to a crackling fire with cool apple cider, and I am brought to an emotion I cannot describe. I have been frequently brought back to the thought that we are not fighting flesh and blood. Alas, I have been wrestling with my flesh, doing the things I do not want to do. It is certainly an active and tangible reminder that this fight is not worthwhile – with my flesh that is.

 Instead, I resolve in my mind to trudge on to find the battle that is worth fighting for, in the midst of this painful flesh that demands my attention. I find I am persistently being reminded that the fight against my flesh has already been won. It is overcome. An act of grace mixed in tension with my humbled defeat. For what am I truly fighting for after all?

 So now I continue to fight, but against something that I do not fully comprehend. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. These things we cannot physically see.

I don’t know what this means, I don’t really know how to respond to this. But I suppose I am responding in desperate prayer. A revival and redemption in my heart to smile upon each morning with hope that the kingdom is at hand and we are demanded to respond. The one who desperately loves us, who washes our feet, is asking us to step out to him and respond. What does this look like for you? The mass expanse of the ocean reminds me of the character of God. The crashing of the waves, the constant roar – it is mysterious, terrifying and beautiful all at once.  

Towards Homelessness

Written By: Justin Eisinga

“It sucks out here,” my friend Jared said emphatically. “Last night, I got woken up three times by three different people. Not to mention, I’m sleeping on a bench. It’s not like I’m getting much sleep to begin with.”

As I look into Jared’s eyes, which seem distant and unattached, I begin to understand, and my heart begins to feel his struggle. Jared didn’t choose this way of life, though he does choose to sleep in public parks and alleyways. An accident that took place days before his final college examinations forced Jared onto the streets, with no family to take care of him and nobody willing to hire him. With an addiction to painkillers plaguing him, John was forced to fend for himself on the sidewalks of downtown Toronto. “The shelters are scary places,” Jared informed me. “People steal your stuff, they scream in the middle of the night. I’d rather be in prison.”

This summer, I had the privilege of working for Mennonite Central Committee as a Program Assistant for their TOOLS (Toronto Opportunities for Learning and Service) program. Each week, I facilitated service-learning trips with groups from ministries across North America. Our objectives were primarily to educate those who live outside of Toronto on the realities of poverty and homelessness in Ontario’s capital and to encourage these groups to build relationships with people in their own communities who have been pushed to the margins. Through this employment, I have been able to build relationships with several people living on the streets in downtown Toronto. As a result, I have come to realize that following Jesus often looks like a walk on a path towards homelessness.

You see, the learning that has taken place inside the walls of the classroom has led me to these practical experiences of shedding my privilege and encountering the deepest needs of the world, whether it’s in downtown Hamilton or inner-city Toronto. In doing so, I’ve come to encounter my own humanity in the eyes of those living on the streets or staying in shelters. As I have followed Jesus into these dark places, I have begun to realize that He has been in these places long before I arrived.

Jesus identifies with the poor and the marginalized, and it brings him great joy to build bridges between social classes so that people who may never have even exchanged a passing glance can encounter each other’s own humanity and begin to walk through life together. It only takes one look at the group of women who followed Jesus around and helped fund his ministry to drive this point home. The Kingdom of God is not a place where these social barriers exist; in fact, it is a place where the last will be first and the first will be last. The new creation, which Jesus has left us the task of ushering in, is a realm of paradox, where all the people who choose to walk behind the footsteps of the Master Rabbi will understand, at the core of their humanity, what it means to live without the restraint of financial stress and to live in harmony with all of creation.

Until the day that this realm has been fully ushered in, we have been left with the task of building bridges between our world of privilege and the world of fear and insecurity that is waiting outside our doors. It is up to us to advocate for the marginalized in our communities and around the world. It is up to us to stare in the eyes of people like Jared and remind them that someone cares. It is up to us to experience our own humanity in the faces of those who are downtrodden and cast aside.

The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone; Jesus is waiting for us, sitting within people like Jared, longing to give you a new revelation of His presence on street corners and sidewalks in our cities and communities, wherever we find ourselves living, breathing, and eating. Jesus is waiting for us to walk on the path towards homelessness so that we might find our real home in His coming Kingdom, a realm of paradox and an empire of peace, love, and grace for all who call upon His name.

Why Pray?

Written By: Jacob Day

“Let us pray.” This is definitely one of the more common phrases we use to enter into prayer together — maybe in small group, to begin a meal or prior to travelling. It is a very normal phrase to engage in very normal prayers, prayers which may amount to little more than “bless this food to our bodies” or “give us travelling mercies” before closing off our thirty second routine with “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Now routine and tradition are good things, but if our faith in the power of the name of Jesus amounts to little more than trusting we won’t get food poisoning or total our cars, then we have a very shallow view of the Creator of the universe. Jesus’ rebuke thus rings true: “O you of little faith!” Has our faith in Jesus been reduced to superstition? Has our time with our Heavenly Father been condensed to 30 seconds before dinner? Has God become a means to an end in obtaining desired blessings? If so, we must re-evaluate our understanding of prayer: its power, our commitment, and the purpose of it all.

Scripture points to prayer as one of the most powerful tools for Christians. The well-known illustration in Matthew 17 tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. Some say this is all metaphorical and could never really happen, but when was the last time anyone ever had that much faith? In fact, an even more improbable event came as a result of prayer when Joshua asked God to stop the sun in its place (Joshua 10:12-14). The list of miraculous events throughout Scripture as a result of prayer would exhaust this article; nevertheless, the power of our prayer relates to our faith and indeed all things are possible with God. For as Jesus tells his Disciples, we too—if we are His disciples—can be assured that “whatever [we] ask in prayer, [we] will receive if [we] have faith” (Matt. 21:22). To many people, like me, this poses the question: how can I get more of this faith? How can I make myself believe more deeply in the power of God? I believe that the man in Mark 9 felt a similar way when his doubt was challenged by Jesus. In desperation he cried out: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” This mixed conglomeration of belief and doubt that many of us struggle with can be difficult and emotional, but in recognizing that faith is a gift (Eph. 2:8) we who ask for a greater amount of it can be confident that we will indeed receive. Ultimately, we draw limitations on our prayers when we draw limitations on our God; it is by His grace and power that our prayers are made effective.

Scripture points to prayer as one of the most important time commitments of the Christian person. Paul exhorts Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We in the West are highly time oriented so stopping to be in the presence of God can be one of the most difficult sacrifices of all. How we spend our time tells a lot about who or what is in control of our lives and what our priorities are. Jesus’ life and ministry show us very clearly how important prayer is. Jesus often withdrew in solitude to pray (Luke 5:16), He prayed early in the morning (Mark 1:35), He prayed in the evening and through the night (Luke 6:12). He was praying at many of the significant events of His life: His baptism (Luke 3:21), transfiguration (Luke 9:28), after the Last Supper, in the garden before He was taken (John 17 and Matt. 26:36) and of course during his crucifixion (Luke 23:34). Jesus often taught on prayer in parables (Luke 18), through instruction (Matt. 6:7) and by example (Luke 11). Prayer was evidently a substantial part of Jesus’ life, both in what He did and what He taught. If the perfect Son of God made prayer a foundational aspect of His life, we as sinners ought to make it a vital part of ours as well.

The purpose of prayer is to spend time with our Father and advance His Kingdom as well as request His providence, forgiveness, guidance and protection.  Probably the most significant text on prayer is when Jesus teaches His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, which is too important not to quote in full:

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

If we look at the principles outlined in this prayer, we can use those principals to shape all of our prayers, no matter how diverse they may be. I’ll list four principals that I believe are outlined here and affirmed in the rest of Scripture. First, we ought to recognize Christ’s work in reconciling us with God, that when we are born again (through belief and repentance), we become coheirs with Christ and children of God. We need to recognize both this intimacy with our Father but yet also hold Him in reverence and adore Him for who He is. Second, we ought to seek out His will to be done and His Kingdom to come – not just in our prayers but also in our lives, not just in times of blessing but in times of immense sacrifice. Third, we should present our requests to Him (after first seeking His Kingdom), while noting that we need little more than our daily bread. Fourth, we ought to be constantly confessing our sins and living lives of repentance in which we rely on God’s grace to overcome temptation and Satan’s grasp. This is how Jesus taught us how to pray; let us hold fast to the model He has given us.

Prayer is one of the most amazing and awe-inspiring aspects of being a Christian. We get to spend time with the Creator of the world, whom we have the privilege of calling “Father”. Our prayers also give us the opportunity to participate in the mission of God, and through trusting in His faithfulness of His promises we can see extraordinary change through prayer. As our relationship with God is our most important relationship, our time in prayer should reflect that. If we have a proper understanding of prayer’s effectiveness in God’s Kingdom, then naturally we should be seeking first His kingdom through this method prescribed for us. It should also mean that we are constantly praying “your will be done” in all circumstances, as Jesus did before He was taken to be crucified. Let us not confuse prayer for a superstitious ritual; let us not try to put limitations on God’s power; let us not make it a means to a selfish end. In the manner that the Bible has so clearly outlined for us: let us pray.